The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of USDA and the Univ. of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory tested samples from a turkey breeder replacement flock. State officials quarantined the premises with plans to cull the birds.
USDA has identified two mixed-origin viruses in the Pacific Flyway — H5N2 and a new H5N1 virus — since the outbreak of highly pathogenic H5 viruses began late in 2014. The agency noted that highly pathogenic strains of avian influenza can travel in wild birds without the birds appearing sick. However, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to people to be low.
Minnesota Turkey Growers Association Executive Director Steve Olson says the H5N2 strain will have “a huge impact” on exports, according to the Associated Press. The association says about 6 million Minnesota turkeys are sent to international markets every year. One of the countries banning Minnesota poultry is Mexico. Half to 2/3 of the Minnesota exports go to Mexico.
The virus's incubation period is 21 days. Olson said the best case scenario is that countries will lift the ban shortly after that period, estimating the cost to the industry around $10 to $20 million.
"But if it goes beyond a couple months or six months, then it's going to have a huge impact on us because that's product we're going to have to move into the domestic market," he told AP.
Which means domestic turkey prices could drop. In that scenario, Olson believes the industry could lose anywhere from $50 to upwards of $100 million.
“The Minnesota Department of Health is working directly with poultry workers at the affected facility to ensure they are taking the proper precautions,” APHIS said in a statement. In addition, the agency is advising people to avoid contact with sick or dead poultry or wildlife.